When the power station at Kudjip Nazarene Hospital, in Papua New Guinea, was destroyed in a flood, the hospital was forced to rely on power supplied by the government.
But daily brownouts – power reduced due to inadequate supply – and blackouts were damaging hospital equipment. Recognizing the need for a more reliable power source to keep the equipment in good operating order, a missionary who had been serving the area contacted Hugh McKay, a retired civil engineer and a trustee of Denver Wesleyan Church.
“As a civil engineer doing work for Christian mission organizations around the world, I knew that I was in a good position to be able to help,” says McKay, 78. “I asked Michael Kaiser, the current owner of the company I had worked with, if they could help us with the project and they readily agreed.”
That company, Worldwide Engineering, is located in Denver. “As Christians, the current owner and myself have always operated the business on Christian principles,” McKay adds. “Some of our mission projects are paid for, but only in sufficient amounts to cover our expenses.”
Worldwide Engineering did the engineering, design and on-site project management, with funding provided by an incentive grant, similar to a U.S. aid program, from the Australian government.
McKay in turn requested help for the project from long-time Denver Wesleyan member Paul Finch, 58, a contractor who has been active in local and overseas missionary projects. Finch acted as construction foreman for 90 days, from September to November last year.
“I would have stayed longer,” Finch says, “but 90 days is the maximum time allowed on a volunteer visa. While I was there, my wife, Cathy, was holding down the fort in Denver.”
Construction of the power plant required building of a dam across a nearby river and a 3/4-mile, cement-lined canal to bring water to the station. “During the three months I was there, working on the early stages of the project,” says Finch, “the power went out on average once a day.”
The canal is now 90 percent complete after six months, using local manual labor. “You have to be a jack-of-all-trades to be able to assist the local labor force in what to do and how to do it,” Finch says. “I also operated the only piece of equipment they had, a backhoe.”
Completion of the project is anticipated to take place by early 2014. However, McKay points out, “Building the power plant is important but secondary to the main purpose of our being there, which is to minister to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the people of Papua.”
Finch adds, “I asked permission to bring with me some Christian-themed films, together with the equipment to show them, in order to introduce the local population to Christian values and the message of the Gospel.”
“The folks in charge said yes, but then I remembered that most of the local churches have no power. God reminded me that my pastor had a small, suitcase-size generator. I brought that along in my luggage.”